The Failure of Happily Ever After

Our hearts can easily fill with exciting life ambition. A fascinating career. Healthy, happy kids. You fill in the blank. But what happens when wombs remain barren and mental illness strikes? When the resume doesn’t land an interview and our children make horrible choices in high school? Is it not mildly aggravating that the Author of our desires knows that many of them will remain unrealized? Sin and brokenness kill our dreams and can leave us feeling confused and alone without a proper biblical perspective. 

Dream Killers

Dream killers will eventually break into our lives with their coldness and leave us aching. They’ll surround us in destructive forces of nature, bodies that don’t work properly – look properly. Betrayal, disappointment, and terrorism. Death, job loss, and gossip. And let’s not forget the brokenness of our own making.     

Our ambitions can often run alongside a deep sense of entitlement if we aren’t careful. Entitled to perfect health, to teachers who are exceptional – entitled to what everyone else has. We can taste a picture-perfect life with a lovely spouse, 2.5 healthy kids, a white picket fence, and a loyal, non-shedding dog. We can unwittingly carve our dreams into stone, and resent anything or anyone who shatters our plans, including God. Yet when we reflect on the sin-sick reality of our world, and the rise and fall of so many biblical characters, we are actually misguided to think that our dreams will all reach fruition. We are setting ourselves and the future generation up for disappointment. Disillusionment will set in. Bitterness. More. When entitlement piggybacks on all that I desire, I do not honour God. I honour myself.   

Biblical Dreams

Desires aren’t bad in themselves. They can spark vision, fuel joy, and move us toward God-honoring ends. What we need is a reconstruction of our thought-processes that holds two biblical mindsets together. Our desires for the future must run alongside a complete willingness to submit to Christ regardless of their fulfillment. As we dream, we must also be ready to learn contentment when our longings are left wanting. Before we rouse our hearts to ‘be all that they can be’, let’s consider who we will become if we train our minds to hope in a world that will devour the very dreams that we imagine. Our hope must be placed in Someone better and truer. 

The goal cannot be the white picket fence or whatever it is that our desires lead us to dream. The goal is glorifying God regardless of whether the picket fence ever arrives. What if our dreams didn’t focus on what we achieve for ourselves or for God? When being transformed into the likeness of Christ is our ultimate preoccupying desire, then all of our circumstances – both wanted and displeasing – will always afford us the opportunity to be satisfied. With Christ-likeness our aim, blessings received and dreams realized will collapse us to our knees in gratitude, and times of suffering will help us achieve the godly character our hearts yearn for. We will not be confused by the roller coaster ride of unmet expectations when we know that submission to Christ during trials is the channel to our grandest goal.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” If the success of Jesus’ life is measured by the fulfillment of human desires and the attainment of picket fences, then His life was a tragedy indeed. But Jesus modelled for us what a life with eternal perspective looks like – an unfair life that included remarkable sacrifice, pain, and humility.

We don’t just have His example. We also have His resurrected life living within us to empower us to look and run toward Him as we ought. With Him as our goal, the desires of our heart will be satisfied because He will meet us in our joys and in our pain. When other human dreams are left hanging, He gives us hope and shapes our character in the midst of the disappointment. We must lean into every opportunity – wanted and undesired – to glorify God further, submitting to His authority and trusting His love. So let’s cast off the lies of happily ever after, and affirm a new dream of glorifying God when it doesn’t.

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